War Against All
Review by Felix on July 12, 2023.
When it comes to Immortal, there seems to be a simple rule: the fewer musicians running the band, the more generic the music sounds. The day will come when even Demonaz will leave the band and only a ghost of Immortal’s imaginary kingdom will remain and record the next album. It will contain only the recycled riff of Pure Holocaust and the ghost will scream non-stop “Blashyrkh, Blashyrkh, Blashyrkh”. Guess I will buy this album immediately.
Until then, I will be satisfied with War Against All. Yes, it is very generic and no, it does not belong to the top three of the legend’s slowly growing discography. But this does not say a lot about the output, because it is a really tough job to compete with milestones like Pure Holocaust, Battles In The North or All Shall Fall. Compared with these and further ice titans of the back catalogue, small details can make the difference. War Against All suffers a bit from the fact that Demonaz thought it could be a good idea to record an instrumental. But Immortal’s music is not predestined for instrumentals. This is especially true if they are overlong. Immortal’s material never surprised with many twists and turns. Quite the opposite, sometimes it was and still is slightly formulaic. 'Nordlandihr' marks no exception to the rule. Its homogeneous flow does not lack vitality, but it would be a euphemism to call its guitar lines exciting. Thus, the missing vocals become a real problem.
Now that we know the weakest track here, it is time to put the spot on the album’s brightest highlight. The title of 'Thunders Of Darkness' does not promise too much. It blasts its way with elemental force through the eternal ice. Jagged and rough riffs are accompanied by high speed drumming and fantastic mid-tempo parts perfectly complement the Blizzard-like outbursts. The primal power of Norwegian legend materialises in demonic, malevolent ways. Each and every note hits the bull’s eye. This song alone justifies the release of War Against All. Nevertheless, it feels good that there are more high quality pieces to find.
'No Sun' is the song with the grimmest singing of Demonaz and its successively growing intensity draws the listener more and more into the song. Both 'Return To Cold' and 'Wargod' house short atmospheric sequences with an absolutely identical (and great) vibration while stomping over the frozen fields on the outskirts of Blashyrkh. The last survivor of the original line-up has a talent to pen mighty yet catchy choruses. As well as the entire songs, they never shine with fine nuances or technical feats, but they have character and expressive power. The same can be said about the opening title track. Unfortunately this is simultaneously the song where it becomes obvious that the production is not as thunderous as the one of Northern Chaos Gods. Compared with its predecessor and its similarly configured title track, the sound of War Against All does not strive for total destruction. Anyway, there is still a solid amount of pressure and so on its own there is nothing wrong with the pretty transparent but not sterile production.
The seventh track ('Immortal', a band anthem on the tenth album is a little late, isn’t it?) delivers another standardized, typical Immortal song and now only one evidently necessary element is still missing to make an album of Demonaz complete. Of course, I am speaking of the hopefully gargantuan, epic monument in the tradition of 'Blashyrk (Mighty Ravendark)' or 'Mighty Ravendark'. Sorry, but I am not responsible for this original naming… Well, 'Blashyrk My Throne' does its job. It is free from silliness of any kind, stoically and seriously the song marches forward. The riffing takes a clear course and the 101% Immortal-esque atmospheric parts are not missing – but it is also true that the piece fails to create a larger than life feeling and to offer a dramatic touch. It marks a good closer, no more, no less. And so the album clocks in at 38 minutes and the Immortal fanboy in me asks me whether he should be euphoric or disappointed. My answer is neither nor. Immortal have stayed loyal to their fans and to themselves. Compared with other Norwegian pioneers like they have neither become victims of their own experiments (Darkthrone, Enslaved) nor have they disbanded (Emperor) or should they please finally do so (Dimmu Borgir, Gehenna). That alone is a good thing and I do not always expect masterpieces, but a robust, honest and serious release with a handful of great tracks. This is exactly what War Against All represents.
Rating: 8.2 out of 101.36k
Review by Vladimir on May 26, 2023.
Brilliant! Just when you thought winter was finally over and that Summer is at our doorstep, Immortal comes out with their new “blizzard beast” to raise the freezing glaciers once again. Jokes aside, I have to say that I was really looking forward to the release of this album once it got announced. Norwegian black metal legends Immortal have just released their tenth full-lenght album War Against All via Nuclear Blast on May 26th. It feels really strange to think that the previous album Northern Chaos Gods was released 5 years ago, and then all of a sudden, we haven’t heard anything from Immortal once the legal dispute between Horgh and Demonaz arose. Now that we all know about the closure of that dispute and the outcome, I can safely say that we’re more than lucky to have Immortal back once again. I had very high hopes for this one, because Northern Chaos Gods did not only manage to impress me back in 2018 when I heard it, but it also managed to bring back my fascination and love towards the black metal genre, encouraging me to revisit those classic 90’s albums that I failed to understand in my teenage years. Not only that, but the album managed to remind me why I liked Immortal in the first place, while also bringing me back to the days when I first heard Battles In The North. It feels unusual just to think that half a decade has passed since the album’s release, Horgh is fired from the band, and Demonaz is the only one left to do all the work for Immortal, which to say is not really a bad thing. Along with Demonaz, we have guest musicians Ice Dale on bass and Kevin Kvåle on drums that contributed their musical skills to bring this beast to life. Now let’s talk about the album itself and answer the important question of all. Does it deliver all the promised “frostdemonstorm” and live up to our expectations?
War Against All gives us all of what we know and love about Immortal. There are very fast and aggressive songs with destructive tremolo riffing and blast beats, but there are also songs with badass downpicking riffs and mid-tempo drumming that are also pretty head-banging tunes from start to finish. Of course, Immortal wouldn’t be Immortal without the inclusion of clean guitar interludes in the middle of the song that build up the other half. Songs are quite simple but overall well-written, without any fillers or lacklustre moments that fail at capturing a certain feeling or even keeping your attention. Interestingly enough, there is even an instrumental track 'Nordlandhir' which is quite epic and, in a way, builds up nicely to the last two tracks on this album, 'Immortal' and 'Blashyrkh My Throne'. One thing I think should be addressed is the vocals by Demonaz. Although I much prefer Immortal songs with Abbath’s vocals, Northern Chaos Gods and War Against All prove not only that Demonaz is still a very capable songwriter and lyricist, but they also prove that his frostbitten, dry and harsh vocals actually fit extremely well with the music. To put it simply, it just works.
Now that I’ve sorted most of the things along the way, there are two questions that I think need to be answered. Question 1: is this a typical Immortal album? With all things considered, yes. As I’ve already mentioned the traits of each track, you instantly recognize that it’s pretty much Immortal’s trademark songwriting for the past 20 years. A lot of people might complain that this is very predictable songwriting since we can all tell that it’s a typical Immortal song just by listening. Question 2: is the album epic? Yes, it is. Despite what I’ve said about the songwriting, that doesn’t mean that it’s all around bad or that it negatively affects the overall experience. Songs on this album are great, all the way down to the slow tracks like 'Wargod', 'Return To Cold' and 'Blashyrkh My Throne'. Elitists really tend to harshly treat Immortal’s slower and mid-tempo songs, but I really think that all these people fail to notice and feel the mesmerizing beauty of these songs. Demonaz clearly knows how an Immortal song should sound and how it works best, be it fast or slow. Production-wise, besides being heavy and frosty, it is actually a much cleaner and clearer sounding album when compared to Peter Tägtgren’s production for Northern Chaos Gods, which was just a bit over-produced for my taste.
War Against All as an album doesn’t stand out, nor is that its intention, but it certainly does its job at being an Immortal album and a damn good one. Northern Chaos Gods proved that Immortal can still work everything out without Abbath, but War Against All proves that Demonaz can take charge of Immortal on his own and do his best job at not letting the fans down. People like me who have already heard the album can definitely tell that Demonaz clearly wanted to take Immortal’s direction all the way back to the days of Battles In The North with these two albums, and yet he did it. Not only does it show that he, unlike Abbath for example, still cares a lot about Immortal, but it also shows that he really cares about his fans as well and he won’t just let the band die. I mean, why would he? The band is called Immortal after all. The last two albums should also serve as great examples to prove that Demonaz triumphantly rose like a phoenix from the ashes after suffering from tendinitis for so many years, while also having to battle with Horgh over legal rights to the band’s name, ending up being the only member left who will do his best job at carrying this band on his shoulders through the greatest of blizzards and purest of holocausts. I did my best job at not letting my fanboy side get the best of me when I listened and analysed everything track by track, and yet I was still satisfied with the result. Whether I like this one more than Northern Chaos Gods is pretty debatable, but I personally wouldn’t really dare compare the two because after all, Northern Chaos Gods brought me back to black metal, while War Against All gave me as an Immortal fan high hopes that this band will once again reclaim its rightful throne. Ever since Abbath left Immortal and started pursuing his solo band, I really have to say that throughout these last 7-8 years, I was not impressed with any of the albums he made with his band, but not because they sounded nothing like Immortal, rather because they just had no substance whatsoever. Abbath’s albums just sound rather sterile, passionless, empty and lifeless, while the last two Immortal albums are thankfully the complete opposite. While some would still love to see Abbath return to the band, I personally think that Immortal is doing pretty fine without him thanks to Demonaz’s dedication and will he put into keeping the band alive and strong. Hopefully he will hire some live/session members for Immortal, because I would just love to see the band perform live after being absent from the stages for so many years, especially with some of these new songs that could possibly end up on the tracklist. If you still haven’t heard Immortal’s new album War Against All, then what are you waiting for? Make sure to give it a listen and witness the gates of Blashyrkh open once more.
Rating: 8.7 out of 101.36k
Review by Michael on May 25, 2023.
It took 5 years until Demonaz could get up the nerve to record a new Immortal album. Of course, the expectations for War Against All are all the greater - will the album be able to fulfill them? After all, a lot has changed since Northern Chaos Gods. Drummer Horgh left the band in a quarrel and so Demonaz had to look for new comrades-in-arms. He found them in Enslaved's guitarist Arve "Ice Dale" Isdal, who has also worked on Abbath's solo project, and Gaahl's Wyrds drummer Kevin Kvåle.
Well, based on the cover and the eight tracks, it first seems as if it will. The classic Immortal trademarks are continued without any changes, ice, frost, Blashyrkh. But also musically not much has changed in the house of Immortal. Demonaz' growling vocals still sound as fresh as in 2018 and also the song structures are strikingly similar to those on the previous albums since the absolute classic At The Heart Of Winter. But that doesn't mean that Demonaz copies itself, no, the songs are taken a bit further than in the past. A good example of this is 'Wargod'. Here quite epic parts are added to the typical riff-heavy, galloping sections and the whole thing gets a nice Viking-Bathory vibe. But also the typical Immortal stompers don't come too short on War Against All. So the title track or 'Return To Cold' are absolutely classically composed Immortal songs, where every fan knows what he gets.
With 'Immortal' the band has finally treated themselves to a self-titled song, which also kicks ass. The song starts hyper-fast and also leaves little room to catch your breath. I claim that it is the fastest song in parts since Battles In The North, which is again decorated with some very anthemic arrangements. For a crowning finale Demonaz has saved 'Blashyrkh My Throne', which again reminds very much of the title track of At The Heart Of Winter. The song is a gripping, epic and very melodic song that brings a lot of Bathory feeling with it and will become a live smash hit and fan favorite with absolute guarantee.
After so much praise, however, there is also a criticism of the album. Thus, with 'Nordlandihr' a somewhat too long instrumental track has landed on it, which might have been a little more gripping with some vocals. So it is quite nice, but falls a little from the rest. From the sound angle there is nothing to complain about, here Enslaved's ex-keyboardist Herbrand Larsen has done a good job, as well as Iver Sandoy (also Enslaved), who has taken over the mastering.
All in all, War Against All has become a brilliant and convincing comeback album of a band that many had already written off.
Rating: 8.9 out of 101.36k